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Holiday hiring picks up, could lead to full-time jobs

Retail hiring in October was the strongest in 14 years. Nearly half of employers plan to keep some of their holiday hires as permanent staff, survey finds.

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Shopper Roxanna Garcia, center, waits in line to pay for her over a $1,000.00 gifts at the Target store in Burbank, Calif. Holiday hiring is expected to be at its highest in 14 years this season.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/File

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It’s the happiest shopping season – and, for America's unemployed – a holiday hiring season that's off to its strongest start in 14 years.

Despite earlier prognostications that temporary seasonal jobs would not be as plentiful as last year, the retail industry added 159,000 jobs in October. That's a 6.7 percent increase from a year ago and the highest number of new hires in the first month of the annual holiday hiring period since 1999, according to an analysis of Bureau Labor Statistics data by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

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Even more encouraging: Nearly half of employers hiring seasonal workers plan to transition some of them into permanent staff, according to CareerBuilder’s annual survey of 2,100 employers. This is a 10 percent increase from 2012 levels – good news for America’s 11.3 million unemployed.

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The holiday hiring period runs from October through December, although most job additions typically occur in November.

The retail industry is seeing the highest number of seasonal hires. Thirty-nine percent of retail hiring managers plan to hire seasonal workers this year, up from 36 percent last year and 29 percent in 2011, according to the CareerBuilder survey. A survey of 1,000 hiring managers by job-search service Snagajob found that 69 percent expected to make hires this year, up from 63 percent in 2012.

Amazon posted 70,000 seasonal positions this year, an increase of 20,000 from last year. Macy's posted 83,000 positions this year. 

“It’s not just the retail industry that’s hiring,” says James Pedderson, a spokesperson for Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Catering companies, restaurants and shipping companies are all huge hirers, too.”  

UPS and FedEx are hiring more than 55,000 and 20,000 seasonal workers this year, respectively. 

Additionally, 18 percent of information-technology companies and 16 percent of leisure and hospitality and financial services firms planned to hire seasonal staff, the CareerBuilder survey shows. Nearly half of all employers expect to fill the majority of seasonal positions with college students followed by experienced workers, high school workers, and retirees.

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Holiday hiring rates reflect an increase in sales coupled with full-time employees taking vacation hours, according to Mr. Pedderson. "Holiday hires fill in the gaps."